The Calgary Flames waited in anticipation for this, their first playoff home game in just shy of six full years.
They didn’t disappoint, producing perhaps their most complete 60 minutes of hockey in weeks – aside from that game versus the Los Angeles Kings that sent them to the post-season. They beat the visiting Vancouver Canucks 4-2 to take a 2-1 series lead in their Western Conference quarter-final.
Three of the team’s four goals were scored by players with last names beginning with B: Bollig, Brodie and Bennett (who had the eventual game-winner).
Sean Monahan scored the final goal, and his name doesn’t begin with the letter B.
The Flames got off to a good start. They didn’t get a lot of shots early, but they did a good job of laying the body and creating turnovers. Finally, they opened the scoring mid-way through the period when Josh Jooris created a turnover with a hit, then it led to an exchange that led to a Brandon Bollig goal. T.J. Brodie shot the puck, it glanced off a defender and landed right in front of Bollig, who knocked it in. The Canucks tied it up a couple minutes later off a scrambley play out front of Jonas Hiller: the Flames’ defenders were caught off-guard and Shawn Matthias put in a bouncing puck. However, the Flames re-took the lead with 5 minutes left in the period. Joe Colborne and Sam Bennett won a series of board battles with the Canucks defenders, then fed the puck to Brodie, who scored from the point with Bennett screening to make it 2-1. Shots were 11-9 Vancouver in the opening frame.
Nobody scored in the second period, but man, was it a fun period of hockey. Shots were “just” 6-4 for Vancouver, but it was a tight-checking game with lots of smart defensive play, hits and checking of all kinds.
The Flames polished the night off with a strong final 20 minutes. They out-shot the Canucks 14-8, out-hit them plenty and scored twice to ice it. Sam Bennett scored early off a goal-mouth scramble to make it 3-1. Sean Monahan scored on a late-period 5-on-3 off a nice pass from Johnny Gaudreau – the power-play was drawn after Yannick Weber clipped Jonas Hiller when cutting across the crease and Dan Hamhuis was tagged for hitting Bennett in the head. Jannik Hansen scored late off a nice set-up from under the goal-line by Bo Horvat to make it 4-2. There were a few scrums late in the game, but no additional scoring.
Man, this was a fun 60 minutes of hockey.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Calgary was better than Vancouver for basically the entire 60 minutes. They dominated the game physically, they generated more and better chances, and they played a restrained, mature, poised 60 minutes of playoff hockey.
They may have looked terrified in their own zone twice all game long. For a team that’s incredibly reliant on rookies, that’s pretty damn good.
Sam Bennett was all over the place, in a good way. He threw some hits. He was a big part of the second goal. His line was the best line for Calgary on a consistent basis, and he even added his first goal as a pro.
Honourable mention to Michael Ferland, T.J. Brodie, Mikael Backlund and Johnny Gaudreau.
THE GAME IN TWEETS
Big diff. between CGY/ VCR. TJ Brodie has become d’man Flames needed. Alex Edler has not developed like that for Canucks. #canucksvsflames
— bruce dowbiggin (@dowbboy) April 20, 2015
One more try: Welcome to the fake press box. (Red Mile 2015 edition) pic.twitter.com/XUgxRnOj1o
— Lord Stanleyberg (@fake_steinberg) April 20, 2015
#Flames rookie Sam Bennett had three points — all assists — in four OHL playoff games. Has goal and helper in three NHL playoff games.
— Wes Gilbertson (@SUNGilbertson) April 20, 2015
The winner of Flames-Canucks won’t win the Stanley Cup, but may yet rule the Federal League
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) April 20, 2015
Via your friends (and ours) at War-On-Ice:
SUM IT UP
The Flames played a playoff home game, which is pretty great.
And they won, which is also pretty great, particularly after how ineffective they were in Game 2. They hold serve in the series, holding a 2-1 series lead and home ice advantage. Game 3 goes Tuesday night at 8pm MT at the Scotiabank Saddledome.